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Saban favors more challenging schedules

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Alabama coach Nick Saban still advocates beefing up schedules in the Southeastern Conference and the other power leagues, even if it means changing the formula for bowl eligibility.

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The SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference have opted to remain at eight-game league schedules while playing at least one major conference program every year.

''If it was totally up to me, I'd say you've got to play all 12 games in the Big 5'' conferences, Saban said Wednesday at the Regions Tradition Pro-Am. ''If we did that, I think we would be less averse to playing more conference games because I think we have such a great conference. But I don't think anybody's going to be in favor of that until we change how you select bowl teams. I think you ought to do it based on the RPI and strength of schedule and all that for all bowls.''

Teams must win at least six games to play in a bowl game, which Saban said makes some leery of making that goal even harder. He suggested choosing bowl teams similarly to how the national championship contenders will be picked.

''So if you win five games and you played a great schedule and you had a couple of significant wins, you could still go to a bowl game,'' Saban said. ''But as long as you have to win six games to be in a bowl game, people are not going to be in favor of strength of schedule.''

The SEC's presidents and chancellors approved the so-called 6-1-1 format, meaning teams will continue to play each of their six division rivals, plus one permanent crossover rivalry game and another non-divisional opponent that will rotate.

Starting in 2016, all SEC teams will be required to play at least one game against a team from one of the other Big 5 conferences - the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12.

Alabama typically does that with a neutral-site game each season.

Saban, who had apparently been the only SEC coach advocating for a ninth game, said he was glad the SEC is sticking with the 6-1-1 format. He was less enthusiastic with the call on eight games.

''I didn't think our conference would be so easily influenced to stay at the current way that we do it,'' Saban said.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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